Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Web Analytics in Quebec

Fellow blogger Lars Johansson, from Sweden, asked me a couple of days ago about my views on the web analytics market in Québec and Canada. We share similar interests as we both organize local Web Analytics Wednesdays, except he had to turn off people at his last event since the room was limited to 60 persons! I'm usually able to gather about a dozen people around a table... :)

So here's the Q&A that can also be found on the WebAnalysts.info blog.

Is there a difference in the way that businesses approach web analytics in Québec compared to the rest of Canada or North America?

First, the business scales are radically different. While Canada, EU and the US usually define a small business to be less than 500 employees, the market reach of those companies are radically different, with populations of 30M citizens in Canada, vs. 300M in the US and about 500M in the EU. This obviously have an impact on the financial structure of companies.

Québec represents a population of 7.5M people, 80% of which speaks French. The internet population is estimated by comScore to be about 4M people.

A large Web site in Québec, say, one that register over 500,000 unique visitors a month, is a drop in the ocean when compared to their US equivalents. The reality, as reported by newspaper La Presse, is that only 20 of the top 50 most visited sites in Québec are really made in Québec (the other being the Google, Yahoo and YouTube of this world), and most of them claim an audience reach well below 1M.

My experience is that probably something like 80% of the corporate web sites (i.e. excluding blogs) receives traffic between 1M and 2M pages views a month or say, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 visits a month.

How does this impact web analytics practices? Considering most WA solutions are service based, and most of them include an entry price tag and elements of “cost per use”, we easily reach the psychological barrier of over 10,000$ CAD/year. That’s certainly where Google Analytics could benefit the most (a bit more on that below). The other negative element is that most web teams are working with unrealistic budgets that still do not compare to traditional media… if there’s a web team at all!

So the web analytics practice is one of compromises, almost cited in the last bullet point of the task list, just before “and all other related tasks”.

Describe the growth for web analytics in your area?

I think the trend is similar to other places such as the US and Europe… except the scale is different… We very rarely see job posts for positions dedicated to web analytics (I heard about one in 6 months!) but the web job market in general, and IT in particular, is suffering from a lack of available resources. Most consultants works for local web agencies (Césart, Hue Agence, Nurun) as emarketing or SEO specialists and fill the gap in web analytics. I know only one free agent, my friend Jacques Warren, who’s been in the field for five years and just recently made the jump to become a full time web analytics consultant.

What's the biggest challenge right now?

Clearly, the biggest challenge in Québec is that we’re still in a phase of “education”. It’s amazing to see how many managers still “don’t get it” that the Web is not “something else”, but an unavoidable part of their marketing/sales/support toolkit. Getting them to understand the key role of web analytics, and allowing someone to look into it is even more difficult.

In this context, it seems that Google Analytics (or other free or very low cost solutions) would be a winner. Interestingly, we see lots of bloggers and very small sites using it, and a few larger ones, but it seems they are still “reporting” rather than doing real analysis.

What’s next?

I will stay involved in the Web Analytics Association and continue to organize the local Web Analytics Wednesdays. As a practitioner, I’m very proud to have the chance to present the WAA course on site optimization at the next eMetrics in San-Francisco. I’m grateful to have my employer entire support and collaboration, a real exception that can be traced back to the corporate values of Desjardins (named best employer in Quebec!).
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